You NOWWA, this is not Chagee

Recently Chinese coffee chain NOWWA Coffee launched its campaign which pays tribute to Chinese intangible cultural heritage – the blue and white pottery. By collaborating with artists of blue and white pottery, NOWWA has created a dragon graphic pattern for the special edition paper cups, paper bags and insulated bags. A special tea latte was also created for the campaign, made with Pu’er and rose from the southwest province of Yunnan.

However, some netizens soon started to notice that the packaging looked familiar. Indeed, from a distance, the design with a monochrome graphic divided by a logoed band in the middle of both cup and bag, bears an uncanny resemblance to Chagee’s packaging. On Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, some in the comment section pointed it out while others started to tag Chagee, half-jokingly expecting a response.

There are several similarities between the campaign and Chagee besides the packaging. Chagee, which originated in Yunnan, has always used Yunnan, in particular the Tea Horse Road, as its brand identity. The new tea latte from NOWWA, normally a coffee brand, seems to lean heavily on the Yunnan elements. The brand even goes out of its way to say on Weibo that the pattern is inspired by the blue and white pottery, instead of Yunnan tie-dyeing.

This is a direct reference to the Chagee packaging. When Chagee launched its current packaging style in 2022, netizens accused it of copying Dior’s 2019 Book Tote. However, Chagee clarified that while the Book Tote was inspired by the Toile De Jouy fabric of France, Chagee took inspiration from the tie-dyeing technique of the Bai people of Yunnan. Weibo was quick to suspect that NOWWA is being a copy of a copy.

Interestingly, it is not the first time NOWWA has looked to luxury bags for its packaging inspiration. Last August, NOWWA partnered with Matteo M, former Gucci pattern designer and created packaging with striking similarity to the Gucci Diamante motif, complete with red and green bands.

The level of likeness between the NOWWA and Chagee packaging, and by extension the Dior handbag, as well as the Yunnan theme in the beverage, can hardly be explained as coincidence. Also, incidentally, Chagee has launched an intangible cultural heritage tribute campaign recently, starting with the firework dragon of Jieyang, Guangdong.  But if interpreted as a challenge towards Chagee, it would mean NOWWA is taking direct aim at the competitor with post-modern humour.


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